CLEMSON – The Clemson-Georgia countdown clock under two weeks now, Dabo Swinney gave the younger Tigers a chance to shine in the second in-stadium scrimmage of camp Saturday.
The Clemson coaches weren’t expecting perfection from the group, but Swinney saw plenty they can work with.
“We got what we needed to get done – done,” said Swinney. “We held some guys today. A lot of guys we wanted to see full-speed in the situation. I thought we accomplished the objective.”
The Tigers worked on multiple situational aspects of the game: two-minute drill, clock management and the like with senior QB Tajh Boyd in for just four plays and junior receiver Sammy Watkins on the sidelines for the whole thing.
In the receiving corps, both new enrollees Mike Williams and T.J. Green had their time in the spotlight.
Williams, a 6-5 Lake Marion product, touched the ball just three times, but for all for big plays – a 50-yard TD reception and two more catches to total 111 yards.
Green, after sustaining a minor knee injury last week, totaled three grabs as well to catch the head coach’s eye.
“Mike had a really nice day. T.J. Green had a good day,” Swinney said. “(They are) a couple of young guys taking advantage of their opportunities.”
Boyd says Tigers are close
Overall offensively, Clemson’s third-year offensive coordinator didn’t have all of his first-teamers out there, but that was no excuse for what he saw on the field at times.
“We didn’t play a lot of our starters by design,” Chad Morris said, “but we still (didn’t have enough intensity). It doesn’t take talent to have intensity. I was real disappointed in our intensity level.
“We’ll get that right. I’ll make sure of that.”
Morris and Swinney have what amounts to a nice problem to have at tailback – repping six guys they are confident in, which includes three scholarship backs from last season (Zac Brooks, Rod McDowell and D.J. Howard), two incoming freshmen talents (Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman) and walk-on Daniel product C.J. Davidson (came to Clemson on a track scholarship).
Swinney says McDowell is the clear No. 1, after leading the Tiger running backs in yards per carry last season (5.4), but Morris is thinking there’ll be a healthy rotation.
“You’re going to see a group of guys seeing playing time from Hot Rod to Zac to C.J. Davidson,” said Morris. “You’re going to see some guys getting reps. I’m excited about those guys. They all bring a different style to the running attack and that’s what we need.”
Morris came to Clemson riding on the idea of the “smashmouth” spread, and though they have plenty of weapons in the passing game, he is as confident as ever in their ability to grind with the run.
“I think we’ve had a very physical camp,” he said. “What does that bring to the table? I don’t know – ask me about August 31st. We’ve preached about being physical. Does that mean lining up and knocking people off the ball and getting a yard? In my opinion, yeah.
“…I think they’re ready as far as taking on that responsibility of ‘Hey, we want to be more physical’ and it’s shown all camp long.”
What is settled – but Morris won’t divulge – is the starting o-line for Georgia week. Saturday confirmed some of his conclusions from camp to that point.
“I think what we found out today is some guys are not ready,” he said. “We kind of thought that they might not be ready. Some probably need another year on the scout team and some will be thrust into a role where they’ll have to be ready.
“We’ll hone in our top-five and start working with them on Monday and zero in on Georgia at that point.”
Freshmen starred on the defensive side of the scrimmage.
T.L. Hanna’s own Ben Boulware led the team in tackles (7), while cornerback Marcus Edmond picked off two passes and took one to the house for a score. Daniel product and defensive end Shaq Lawson tied for the most sacks (3) with junior starter Vic Beasley.
Depth aplenty on the d-line, there’s still no doubt Lawson, a former Independent Mail Player of the Year, will make an instant-impact.
“He’s a true freshman, but he’s had a good amount of water under the bridge,” Swinney said. “He’s a special player. He’s definitely going to be out there for us.”
Scrimmage report - 8/17
Swinney, Morris break it down
The day didn’t make it any easier on redshirt calls being decided as early as Sunday.
“It’s really going to be a close call on some of them,” Swinney said, “because we have to have enough bodies and depth to do what we do.”
Freshman safety Jayron Kearse was the one injury of note (separated shoulder), but Swinney said it wasn’t “too bad” post-scrimmage. Both starting safeties Travis Blanks and Robert Smith were held out with minor injuries.
The Tigers’ head coach says the worst of the camp grind is over headed towards “the light end at the end of the tunnel.”
“We’re nowhere near the team I think we can be before this thing is over,” Swinney said. “I do think that we’re on track in terms of progress that we needed to make at this time.
“It’s been a long, physical camp. These guys are tired of each other, but the tough part of it is over.”